Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland RTA rail cars’

Cleveland RTA Gets Grant for New Rail Cars

August 25, 2022

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority has received an $8 million grant to be used to fund rail car replacement.

The grant was awarded by the Ohio Transit Partnership Program.

Cleveland RTA said it now has been awarded from the Ohio Department of Transportation $21.4 million to be used toward replacement of rail cars used on its 33-mile rail network.

The agency has raised $197.5 million of the $300 million Railcar Replacement Program budget, according to Deputy General Manager Engineering and Project Management Mike Schipper.

This includes funding being provided by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, Federal Formula Funding, and USDOT BUILD, as well as the self-funded Rolling Stock Replacement Fund.

Schipper told RTA trustees during an Aug. 23 meeting that RTA’s rail car fleet is one of the  older in the nation and has exceeded the 30-year expected lifespan of the cars.

“Even as we are in the process of procuring the railcars, the new cars are still going to be 3-4 years from now.” Schipper said.

RTA has enough funding to order 24 new rail cars with options for 36 additional cars.

In a related development, RTA said it received a $3.5 million Urban Transit Program grant from ODOT that will be used to replace six 40-foot diesel buses with six 40-foot Compressed Natural Gas-powered buses.

During the Aug. 23 meeting, RTA trustees approved a resolution to create a seven-member civilian oversight committee to review and investigate public complaints against transit police department employees.

The resolution said the civilian oversight committee must have members who are “representative of the diverse communities in Cuyahoga County.”

At least one member must be a retired police officer. The oversight committee will have the power to receive, investigate and make recommendations to the RTA police chief as to how complaints should be resolved.

RTA’s Chief Operating Officer Floun’say Caver told the trustees that the agency has not had any major issues with its police officers, but by appointing an oversight committee there will be a mechanism to resolve issues should they arise.

RTA Officials Defend Service Suspensions

February 1, 2022

Two trains sliding backward on their tracks. Five buses stuck in the snow. Thirteen minor accidents.

That series of events led officials of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority to take the unprecedented step of suspending all service for 12 hours during the weekend of Jan. 16-17 after a winter storm dumped 15 inches of snow on Northeast Ohio.

But that decision has come under fire from public transit advocates, prompting RTA managers to defend the service suspension during a recent meeting of the RTA board of trustees.

RTA General Manager India Birdsong told trustees that the storm created a unique situation in which snow accumulation of more an inch per hour overwhelmed the system.

Chief Operating Officers Floun’say Caver, said that included two train operators reporting losing traction.

Caver said RTA sent a snow train out to clear tracks but later discovered the problem with lost traction was caused by ice building up on brake shoes rather than track conditions.

Still critics said the service suspension raises concerns because the Cleveland region routinely gets heavy snowfalls every winter.

They pointed to an RTA blog post in 2019 that public transit was a reliable way to get around during harsh winter weather.

Caver defended the service suspension, which was RTA’s first in 19 years.

“I am confident with the decision to have to prioritize the safety, the life and the health of this community,” he said.

Still, Alex Rubin, a member of Clevelanders for Public Transit said the mid-January storm was not historic by any standard.

 “Should we expect there to be no bus or rapid service the next time it snows?”

 “It should not happen every year,” Birdsong said in response. “This is something we can work to be in avoidance of, and we absolutely will do that.”

All Aboard Ohio called the RTA service suspension another example of RTA’s failure to update its fleet.

“It’s bad enough that GCRTA has let the Rapid fall into disrepair from decades of neglect and a failure to fund and procure replacement of equipment, some of which is way beyond its designed life span,” AAO Executive Director Stu Nicholson wrote on Twitter.

“But a total shutdown of the Rapid along with all bus service makes us wonder if this is willful neglect on the part of GCRTA management.”

Nicholson wants an investigation of the shutdown and for the appointment of new RTA trustees to address it.

Clevelanders for Public Transit made similar statements on its Twitter feed.

RTA officials noted they have taken steps to improve the fleet, including using COVID-19 pandemic emergency aid to buy 40 new buses that are expected to enter service in the fall.

Sixteen new vehicles for the Healthline busline were placed into service in January.

Replacing the rail fleet, though, has been a heavier lift. RTA in 2019 put out a request for proposals from transit vehicle manufacturers only to reject last summer the one proposal it received as inadequate.

A second request for proposals has a deadline of March 9 and RTA officials say a vote by trustees on a bid could occur later this year.

RTA projects that replacing its rail fleet will cost $717 million over a 30-year period.

In the interim, RTA trustees have agreed to spend $2.2 million to replace traction motors on rail cars in the wake of 18 traction motor failures last year. The traction motors were last replaced in 2012.

New rail cars, when they do arrive, will have antilock brakes that Caver said will help their performance during winter weather.

He said the new cars also would have better slide protection and more snow cutters to keep the tracks and overhead power lines clear.

As for the mid-January storm, Caver said, “the trains, for the most part, held up fairly well, but this weather environment created these issues that we had.”

Cleveland RTA Restarts Rail Car Acquisition

June 14, 2021

Much of North America’s rail passenger growth is occurring in urban rail systems. Two Greater Cleveland RTA Blue Line trains pass in June 2013.

It is back to square one for Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority in its quest to buy new rail cars.

The transit agency said Friday afternoon it has canceled its plans to find a manufacturer for the cars because the sole proposal it received provided to be inadequate.

RTA said in a news release that it would start the search over but “remains committed” to replacing its rail car fleet.

The news release said the new search will begin at an unspecified point during the next few months.

The request for proposals was sent to rail car manufacturers in February. At the time, RTA specified it was seeking a car type that could operate on all three of if rail lines.

At the time, RTA acknowledged that would involve a specialized product but that it would make maintenance easier and less costly.

Two vendors showed interest in the request for proposals but only one submitted a formal proposal by the May deadline.

After reviewing that proposal, RTA staff concluded the proposal “was not responsive to the technical requirements of the solicitation.”

A rail passenger advocacy group, All Aboard Ohio, had warned earlier that RTA’s timeline on its rail car acquisition program was too tight and would drive up costs.

AAO filed a complaint with the inspector general of the Federal Transportation Administration after RTA twice denied deadline extensions by one or more manufacturers.

The costs of the new rail cars has been put at approximately $240 million. The transit agency is seeking new cars after a consultant said in 2019 that cars used on the Red Line are in poor condition and had a useful life of at most five years.

Cars used on the Blue and Green lines were said by the consultant to have a useful life of 10 years or less.

AAO Wants Probe of RTA Railcar Procurement

May 15, 2021

An Ohio rail advocacy group wants an investigation into the procurement process being used by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority to buy new railcars.

All Aboard Ohio said it contacted the Federal Transit Administration’s inspector general after it learned from unnamed GCRTA sources and a railcar manufacturer that RTA twice denied deadline extensions sought by one or more manufacturers.

The builders said they needed more time to respond to RTA’s pending request for proposals.

AAO said it fears the denials could suppress competition among bidders, which could increase the costs for what is expected to be a $240 million program to replace the cars.

The car replacement project is expected to be RTA’s most expensive capital project in its history.

In a statement, RTA said it continues to pursue acquisition of new rail cars but declined to provide further details on the process.

The statement said RTA is following FTA’s best practices and is in compliance with state and federal regulations.

RTA issued a request for proposals on Feb. 22 that gave interested parties 12 weeks to prepare and submit proposals by May 19.

The transit agency plans to buy 18 railcars and seek options to buy dozens more later. RTA wants to use federal funding to finance some of the purchase.

The agency plans to use one model on all of its rail lines. Currently, it has two types of cars with one dedicated to use on the Red Line and another on the Green and Blue lines.

AAO contend that at least one rail car manufacturer was unable to visit the RTA railcar maintenance shop until April.

The advocacy group said deadline extensions for such projects are considered a “best practice” by the FTA, and had been done on projects in in California, New York, and Illinois in an effort to enhance competition among bidders.

“We hope that FTA’s [inspector general] will be able to determine why FTA’s best practices are not being followed here,” AAO said in its letter to the FTA, saying the deadline should be extended by a month.